John Leo

But the dominant campus notions were ones that the terrorists themselves would surely endorse: that America had it coming, and fighting back would be vengeful, unworthy of America and a risk to the lives of innocents. A speaker at a University of North Carolina teach-in called for an apology to "the tortured and the impoverished and all the millions of other victims of American imperialism." Georgetown is holding a debate titled "Resolved: America's Policies and Past Actions Invited the Recent Attacks."

Yale held a panel discussion of six hand-wringing professors and university officials who focused on "underlying causes" of the attack and America's many faults, including our "offensive cultural messages." In response, classics professor Donald Kagan said the panelists seemed intent on "blaming the victim" and asked why Yale couldn't find one panel member somewhere to focus on the enemy and "how to stamp out such evil." An article in the Yale Herald expressed sympathy for the motives of terrorists, though not their actions. Another article in the Yale Daily News complained that the government's "simplistic narrative" of what happened on Sept. 11 "prepares the machinery of a warrior nation to kill in response."

Some students show a glimmer of awareness that the campus is a bubble of unreality, disconnected from the rest of America. A Columbia student said: "A lot of people here think it would be a travesty to begin killing people. But off campus you hear something else." On other campuses students resist the anti-war tilt in large numbers. At the mostly blue-collar California State University-Fresno, says Victor Hanson, who teaches there, "Maybe 90 percent of the faculty sympathizes with boutique anti-Americanism, and 90 percent of students are firmly behind the government, with the strongest support coming from the Mexican-American kids. The students understand what the faculty doesn't -- that fostering humanity means stopping people who kill."

America still doesn't understand what has happened to its colleges. A strong and implacably non-diverse campus culture has arisen around very dangerous ideas. Among them are radical cultural relativism, non-judgmentalism, and a post-modern conviction that there are no moral norms or truths worth defending -- all knowledge and morality are constructions built by the powerful. Add to this the knee-jerk antagonism to the "hegemony" of the West and a reflexive feeling of sympathy for anti-Western resentments, even those expressed in violence. This is a toxic mix, and it is now crucial for those both on and off the campus to start saying so.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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